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Friendly front porch living

by Susie Steckner on Feb 3, 2017

Homes with front porches are breathing new life into neighborhoods across the Valley, helping cultivate relationships and build community.

“There’s a natural tendency for people to find each other because they are out front,” said Todd Hornback, whose home in the West Valley’s Verrado neighborhood features a front porch. “That just kind of happens on a daily basis.”

Indeed, the sense of community that neighborhoods once fostered has diminished in recent decades and many new-home communities are working to bring it back with options such as welcoming front porches.

Of the 648,000 single-family homes completed in 2015, 183,000 had a patio and a porch, according to the annual Survey of Construction by the U.S. Census Bureau. Front porches also rank high in the 2013 report entitled What Home Buyers Really Want, by the National Association of Home Builders, with 80 percent of buyers asking for porches.

Building community

Homeowners at all stages of their lives are being drawn to neighborhoods that help build community whether through organized activities or the informal interactions that can occur on a front porch.

Depending on the community in the Valley, front porches come in all different shapes, sizes and materials. A corner home may feature a wraparound porch with room for outdoor dining; a smaller house may offer a comfy-cozy porch perfect for two rockers. The Mulberry community in Mesa, for instance, includes a variety of front porches with all of its homes.

“It’s a real change from the type of home that Blandford Homes has been building the past few years,” said Ernie Haycraft, a sales representative for Blandford, the company that is the builder of all of the homes in Mulberry. He notes that the builder has expanded beyond the popular desert-style home to offer buyers a community that harkens to an earlier time. In fact, Blandford Homes refers to Mulberry as the “new old-home neighborhood.” Haycraft said the company is “trying to get back to living like when I was a kid, where everyone knew everyone and people were out on their front porches.”

A “homey” option

DMB’s Verrado and Marley Park, both in the West Valley, were also designed around the idea of front yard living, said Lauren Charpio, vice president of marketing for DMB. Buyers are drawn to the look and feel of homes—whether farm house, Craftsman or prairie house — with inviting front porches. “Residents are excited about the aesthetic and homey option,” she said.

Homeowners, of course, are not abandoning backyard living. But increasingly they are seeing the benefits of life out front. In fact, owners who are accustomed to spending time in the backyard may be surprised to find how much they gravitate to the front, Charpio said.

Picture kids having fun on a backyard play structure. Now picture parents relaxing on the front porch, chatting with passing neighbors while watching the kids play with friends at the community park across the street.

Front porches can lend themselves to larger community-building activities such as the annual breakfast porch party at Hornback’s home. The Sunday brunch draws 50 to 60 people, building and strengthening relationships.

“From a community engagement standpoint, front porches work,” said Hornback, who is also executive director of community life for DMB.

But it’s not just the organized activities, Haycraft said. It’s the friendly conversations between neighbors whose porches are next to each other. Or the front row seat with friends for the evening sunset. “It’s just magical,” Haycraft added.

Ask your builder

Homeowners who are purchasing a new home with a front porch amenity will most likely have a range of options available through their builder. It’s important to consider what will work best for your family, lifestyle and budget.

To that end, ask about available materials and styles that best complement a home. Buyers will also want to ask about size options to accommodate furniture, porch swings and potted plants—all of which can enhance front porch living.

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